Search This Blog

Friday, 28 January 2011

Back, Crack - That's That.

I was jumped on by a large man last night. I was laying there, quite serenely when all of a sudden jump…………… crack ……… sigh.

This was my second trip to the Chiropractor, sorry, Joe as he would have me call him, of the week. I have quickly noticed that despite a lack of grease and nudey calendars, Chiropractors are from the same stock as mechanics. Each are armed with an array of tools meant to bamboozle, confuse and put the fear of sudden, catastrophic failure into out minds. They can both do the teeth sucking followed by a low, steady “hmmmm” and “you’ve done a good job on that ‘aven’t you?” Have I? How? What HAVE I done? Finally they’ll use an unheard of solution to fix an unfathomable problem at an extortionate price – and you, like I, will pay it.

I have no more an understanding of my own body as that of my Peugeot. I know that each has a habit on cold days of wanting nothing more than to be left alone to sulk and has no desire whatsoever to venture out into the wider world. I also know that for the most part they each run smoothly, taking whatever is put in to propel me through my daily duties. Where I start to have problems is when I’ve no idea what is wrong but it just won’t work! I can put the car down to it being French. This isn’t really from a distain for the nation itself. I’ve met a handful of French folk in my time and they’ve varied greatly. Some were slightly aloof but only borderline rude, then there are the absurd delights of the mad French scientist in my office. Despite his anti-royalist mutterings and that time he brough up his enjoyment of the concepts of torture, he really is good mileage for whiling away the hours at work. In fact thinking about it now he is well worth a blog of his own. I have successfully introduced him to the concept of bringing in or making cake for celebratory events – new jobs, birthdays, anniversaries etc, resulting in his valiant effort at a chocolate cake. Rich, though a tad dry. Plus sometimes in mid flow I can close my eyes and it’s like having Peter Sellers in full swing sat behind me. Still. This has no impact on the car. No these thoughts are just because, for no apparent reason and at the most inopportune moment she, for my car is Jess, just decides not to work.

In the same way my body has recently rejected me. Like the car, after years of abuse, it has decided that enough is enough and my back has developed somewhat of a discomforting stabby pain. It could just be the ill will of many a disgruntled character perhaps but, for now, I’m putting it down to sporting misadventure. Now I’ve never seen anyone about any strain or strife before. I always believed that doctors, physios, the lot adopt the one-fits-all solution manual that IT people have but in stead of “turn it off……then back on” it’s the instruction of stopping whatever it was when you noticed the pain, for an arbitrary six weeks. Playing hockey you say? No hockey for six weeks. Swimming was it? No swimming for six weeks. Eating a cornetto whilst thumbing Danielle Steele’s Big Girl, a tale of one sister overcoming the neglect of living in the other’s shadow? Well, you know the score. This time however it was a little more restrictive though and, well, I now find myself beneath the big jumpy man cracking my poor back.

Last night my housemate asked if it’d worked. The truth is, – I don’t know. He’s done stuff. I can tell stuff has most definitely been done. I just am not sure what. But I know, like the car, it is costing me a great deal of money in exchange for a little of peace of mind. Still, for now that has to be cheaper than a new back.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

My Man Flu Theory

I have a theory about man flu. Now, having reviewed my current list of followers I can see that sharing this may not be my wisest move but, on the flip side, I’ve never been famed for making particularly safe or wise decisions.

Man flu is deadly to women. I know. It’s a shocking medical revelation that may well come as a suprise to some and be met with a shaking head of dismay nay, a sigh of disbelief by others. But hear me out.

For as long as men and women have been around, since the days of “Ug” and “Ag” or “Adam and Eve” depending on your belief in factually proven science or popular fiction, the debate has raged hard in the realm of gender comparisons. We have each been given our relative skill sets though, according to some, running the line at a football match is still to be decided. The real bones of contention however always surround suffering and pain and on this there seems to be little agreement. I just wanted to throw my own spanner in to that cauldron of confusion.

As all men will tell you, being hit in the most private of private parts, normally my experience would suggest on the left one, is excruciating. I will always remember the shot of a burglar, crest fallen with legs akimbo either side of a roof beam as he was making his escape from a drugs store in the States. Having in fact burst one of his giggle-berries he was left stricken, awaiting his inevitable arrest and subsequent hospital treatment. Now that is obviously most extreme but still, there are some amongst us, almost half of you I’d presume, that would argue such agony pales into a mere pin prick compared to the emergence of a child into the world when travelling the au natural route. The problem is that no-one is ever going to be able, truthfully, to compare. 

Real Pain?
Such an ailment as man flu has different descriptions depending on your sex. For a man, this is the vicious attack by a bug causing thumping headaches, making your throat feel as though you’ve just gargled concentrated sulphuric acid whilst chowing down on some rusty razor blades. All of this is closely followed by attempting to cough up your feet by drawing them and every internal organ out through your chest. For women, it’s when men get a pathetic sniffle and thing they are dying. This whilst thinking that they would not only still go to work but also paint the Sistine Chapel, do a weekly shop and, depending on the individual, all of the above whilst breastfeeding and not moaning. Not once. The only explanation that I have been able to come up with to explain such polar opposite opinions MUST be that man flu is deadly to women.

Now my medical training is somewhat lacking. I did do a first aid course whilst at school and I have resuss’d more than one Annie in my time. Such training has served me well thus far – I’m plague free and have numerous times fixed bleeding hockey players with bandages and a modicum of sarcasm – so I trust it implicitly now. The fact must be that women must rarely catch man flu or else they would surely demonstrate a morsel of sympathy, an iota of warmth, a soupcon of understanding. But no. Since as a species we’re so fond of a good conspiracy theory how about this? Rather than not being able to catch it, I think it’s just very difficult. However, when a woman does get man flu, it is deadly. What with the majority of coroners being men, they simply cover up this terrible truth and fritter any unexplained deaths away as aneurisms or heart failure.

This I feel would explain the lack of sympathy, of medical assistance, mopped brows and warming cups of healing tea. There is no empathy because there is no back catalogue of shared experience upon which to draw and human nature does have a tendency to pour scorn and doubt on those things we simply cannot understand. A reasoned argument I feel and, gentlemen readers, one that ought at least earn you a cup of tea and the TV remote if not for acceptance, then more for the worry of your delusional state than the agreement of the theory.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Job Hunt MSc

I spoke to a mate of mine last night and he has been told that he’s about to lose his job. Now, being a friend I was supportive, we went for a pint and I tried to share all of the encouraging things I found out when I was in the same boat last June. Tragically I just don’t think I am that good an actor. I worry that he saw through my thinly veiled efforts to gee him up.

The fact is that the two months of job unemployment I had, having been made redundant, was the single most soul destroying time of my life. Worse than when, at six years old, I discovered that Alison Palmer wasn’t going to be my wife. Worse than when I was dumped after four days by Caz Austin when I was 15, EVEN THOUGH I bought her a dozen roses. Worse than when my mum sat me down and told me that my parents were going to get a divorce and, though it pains me to say it, worse than the 102 minutes I spent watching “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” having adored “Desperado”.

Having forged a career since leaving University, making subtle career moves to gain experience, learn new skills, make myself more employable within my field and risen to the heady if inaccurate job title of Road Safety Specialist, I was fairly happy with my lot. One day last April I met up with the boss. I was bought a smashing lunch, we discussed what my career goals were, the fact I’d like to gain experience of working abroad and when I’d be getting my iPhone. The next day four of us on secondment were told we had four weeks notice and after another few weeks of “working from home” the inevitable happened and the consultancy had to let us all go. That’s it. Done. Thanks for all your efforts. What a turnaround.

So what was next? I’d been applying for jobs within the industry but at a time when public spending everywhere was being cut, Local Authorities everywhere shedding staff, what could I do? Well, the first thing was to go through the process of signing on. My first visit to the Job Centre told me everything I needed to know. I explained what I had been doing and got……..nothing. A confused look. I handed over my CV, explained my transferable skills…..nothing. The system is not set up for people with a degree let alone a Masters who actually want to find work! The next eight weeks were hell.

Weeks one and two: Enthusiasm at the ready. I thought I’d find a filler. Something to pay the bills before my undoubted talent was unearthed and I was restored to my rightful place amongst the employed. I had already exhausted applications for jobs relevant to my experience so on to websites, the paper, any source I could. I signed up to ten recruitment agencies, applied for temp this that and the other and cherry picked a few permanent posts that excited me and that I could turn my hand to. I heard nothing.

Friends - Always there to lend support!

Weeks three and four: Chin up time. It is still early doors. Sadly working from home with no work to do had put pay to my appetite for daytime television and any box-sets of choice so my routine became one of facebook, job hunt, facebook, job hunt and then making sure I dragged myself out to keep up with my weekly socials. I was tired though. Staring at my laptop, seeing the same pages, same job, getting the same, silent response.

Weeks five and six: The realisation. Why would anyone take me on for the role of “Office Monkey” when there are fifty people who’d just left the same role looking, who’d be there for years, brain optional, when I’d be there for as long as it took to get something great. Surely the JC would help? No. My fortnightly visits were nothing more than a five minute wait to get my book signed. I want a job. I need a job. What assistance are you giving me? Why won’t you help me? My salary expectations have dropped. I was on nearly £30k. I’ll now take £6.50 an hour. I’m conscious that I need to plan for the future, I can’t afford to keep my lifestyle. My desire to go out has waned. I’m being sucked in. My girlfriend knows and it’s a chore to see her so that falls by the wayside. Friends offer advice. Have you tried this? Have you tried that? Then the looks of sympathy though I’m not crippled by disease, my dog has not died.

Weeks seven and eight: The Fall. I’ve dropped a long way in the last two months. A glum and hollow individual. I queued for 90 minutes to get into a jobs fair. In the rain. A jobs fair with almost no jobs! Toward the end of the queue two women arrive and chat to the guys in front of me. One declares “I’ve been out of work for over a year now but I’m not queuing for an hour to get in”. I vow that I’ll never get to that stage and it’s the impetus I need. Another wasted trip to the JC but my saviour arrives in the form of a mop.

My friend offers a week of work. Cash in hand. I um and err for two hours – he works in a storage place and it needs a good clean. How much pride have I got left? What if someone I know sees me? I go to look at the job and take it. It’s a week out of the house more than anything, watching the comings and going of mystery visitors to their lock-ups, putting my degrees to good use sweeping up behind them. It’s funny. I thought that week would be the final straw of humiliation. Instead it gave me everything back. I was off out to the pub, bounding around the cricket pitch despite the aches and pains of a hard days work and lo and behold I got a call for an interview with an agency.

Having worked in recruitment the junior agent impresses me very little but I know I can impress again, given the chance at interview. In fact I like him decidedly more that the Job Centre robots who have no interest in me, my welfare or job search it’d seem. Perhaps because he sees a profit? I couldn’t care less about his motives. Within a day I’m starting an office role and from their have found myself in my current post. My description to anyone who asks how it’s going is simply “it’s a job”, a phrase that means very little to them I know, but it means the earth to me.

So what advice can I give to my friend? I passed on my tips, offered to help with his CV. The fact is that it’s like ‘Nam. If you haven’t been there, to that dark place, then it’s hard to imagine. It’s hard to accept where you’ll have to go to before things start to look up too. Worst of all, you are on your own. It’s good to have that grounding once in a while but it’s amazing how quickly almost a decade of work can be cast aside for a mop and bucket.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


The problem with telling people that you want to write is that it’s a statement of intent followed by a tidal wave of questions. The worst possible one, of all, is the nag.

“When’ll it be done?” or even worse “have you started yet?” P*ss off is the response, but it’s almost as much for them making me face up to my own tardiness as it is their constant and irritating drone. Did Douglas Adams have to deal with this? Kubrick? Tolkein? I ought ask them, though a lack of ability (and belief) in channelling may be somewhat of a hindrance. There’s always one barrier or another…….

And there you have it - excuses are something that I’m not short of. Work is so tiring. I have too much hockey or cricket on. My brain is just not functioning at the right level, I must be stressed. It’s all rubbish of course. Firstly, the only thing tiring about work right now is the constant threat that someone may find out I haven’t got much to do at all. Please don’t take that the wrong way. Every task tossed my way is duly dispatched of the nearest boundary completed and error free. But then after a while I get bored of my own voice asking for the next, slightly more tedious task to be imagined up. Secondly, there is no such thing as too much hockey and/or cricket.

The problem is that boredom does not inspire creativity. It has however been inspiring an appetite the size of a small African republic. Something that I, my tightly buttocked trousers and my supportive team mates (a weekly fine of fattest man on team and requests for a truffle-shuffle if ever this is queried) are all too aware of.  Hang on a second. That has given me an idea. No, not the dancing. Perhaps I could combine my two newest skills.  Create a reward based system to spur me on and fight the steady death of the ol’ grey matter that currently besets me at every turn.

That’s it – I HAVE IT!

I'll draw up a price list later but for now, a special introductory offer -  I'll knock up three excuses for a battenberg. They are my speciality!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fancy a Brew?

Having started my new job I have been dismayed to learn that nobody in my office drinks proper tea! It’s all green, fruity, twiggy concoctions. Why anyone would want to drink something resembling a mug filled with leaper urine and what is essentially a bag filled with items stuck to a squirrel’s scrotum is beyond me.  I’m not sure how they even function let alone progress to 5pm each day. Furthermore not only is this simply wrong, but it also means that noone makes ME tea!

Being a traditional PG, Yorkshire or Tetley’s man for as long as I can remember my tea consumption has shown unparalleled growth directly relating to the amount of time spent at my desk. Whilst in Local Authority I’d progressed to a hearty six to ten cups a day as each colleague in turn found the urge to meander around the office and take some time out under the auspicious label of “making a brew”. Personally it was almost as though each cup could be my last as tepid leftovers, often full cups, were downed in delightful glee at the prospect of a fresh cup and with it an excuse to raid the biscuit tin of course!

Now I’m left to a few, solitary trips a day leaving me high and quite literally dry for the majority. After a few weeks, I have decided I might see what I’ve been missing so I have dipped my toe cautiously (and very briefly) into the flowerly world of “health” tea. The experience is one that I wanted to share.

After perusing the options I opted for a white tea with elderflower and apricot. By all accounts it was created for my skin - perhaps I’d have been better saving it for the shower. I felt deceived - the smell, good but taste wise I think I’d rather suck a cat. A bitter flavour followed by an after taste that I can only associate to my one effort at wake-boarding. Well, the two freezing, exhausting hours I spent swimming in and drinking the River Trent. I’ve checked since. My skin looks the same. Feels the same. Not only that but the experience has left me irritable and confused about the whole thing!

I’ll hold my hand up and admit that my colleagues have since pointed out that the milk and sugar were unnecessary additions to the brew. Still I am neither convinced nor converted and have come to a conclusion. I wouldn’t ditch my regular cuppa for all the tea in China.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Socks are Bread

Two days back at work and what little enthusiasm that there was yesterday has now dried up like a Northern Irishman’s shower. Fortunately our systems went down so we could all end the pretence of actually doing some work and concentrate on “the big catch up”. How was Christmas? What did you do for New Years? Yes, didn’t we all eat ourselves to death and of course that new scarf, hat, jumper or necklace looks great. The chances are it doesn’t but what can you do? An office of myself and three middle-aged women is no place for honesty. What am I going to say? Spent the holidays drinking, eating more chocolate than Nigella on a self-loathing trip, playing video games and masturbating my way through a lonely New Year’s Eve, what about you?

We finally came on to a conversation of interest. What was the crappest Christmas present that you got? Now this may seem shallow since all, well most, gifts are given with thought and earnest good will. But somehow, each year, someone we know will just get it wrong. In our office one woman was given a notebook, address book and diary without dates written in which was immediately issued to her 4 year old to doodle in at her whim. I must admit this colleague isn’t the sharpest tool in the box (she has the cutting precision of a ladle in fact) so she may well be surprised in time that the notebook has dates on each page. Still I want to put forward a contender for crappest Christmas present and it was a controversial one in the office at least. Socks.

My Aunt is an incredibly generous soul. A quirky character but an old school matriarchal one, albeit without children of her own. But I need to stress I’m not talking the mandatory Christmas socks that are a necessity during the yuletide period. I’m talking black sports socks. I am a fully grown adult. No matter how hard I try to ignore the fact or act otherwise I have reached a level of self sustainability that means I can fend for myself. This, novelty additions aside, means that socks are for all intent and purpose bread. When I need bread I can buy bread. When I need socks I can buy socks.

Surely better than socks
Socks didn’t win the debate in the office. In fact neither did the books. That prize was taken, without the owner’s knowledge, by a luminous green plastic hedgehog thing from a local art gallery (pictured) that we have since found out is a cheese grater! But, ever the sore loser, I’d just make a plea to anyone that whenever you are looking for a treat or gift for that someone special, before making the purchase, remember. Socks are bread.

New Year Revolutions

I’ve bought a bike. It was a bit of a toss up if I’m honest between a gym membership and a bike but, inspired in part by the fact my brother was also purchasing a two-wheel pedalled explorer and in part by the fact that a little-used second hand bike is far more saleable than a second hand little-used gym membership, the bike got the nod.

This is the second time in as many years that I have been taken by the cycling bug despite a general (and entirely rational) hatred of cyclists. The last time it all started so well. Helmet, unflatteringly tight top and padded shorts all acquired I was ready to go. All that I needed now was to pick up an unwanted bike from an ex-workmate and tootle off around the roads and parks of Nottinghamshire. We arranged a rendezvous where we could both enjoy the clean air and spring freshness of Wollaton Park not to mention a casual circuit of the University grounds. Fortunately the University was not in session and so I was saved the embarrassment of heaving a mule of a bike, something no doubt constructed out of post-war tank leftovers, around the paths and parkways in front of any gaggles of attractive twenty-somethings. In all fairness I think if I were sailing smoothly across the ground on a marvellous machine of peddaldry I’d still fail to cause anything along the lines of a cheeky smile or admiring glance. The taut meshed material coating anything less than a finely tuned six-pack would put pay to that let alone the sweat and red cheeked breathlessness.

It was on the fourth or fifth time of replacing the chain and holding up my decreasingly good friend that he offered a swap for a short while. My word the bliss. His gel-seat caressing my now tender rump that had suffered upon the stoney razor mean to be a seat – the padded shorts akin to putting a tissue over an axe before assuming the riding position, his lightweight frame a feather compared to my panzer-bike. No wonder the smug git had effortlessly wafted around me like a feather all morning. In fact it was no wonder he wanted to sell the bugger in the first place and no wonder he was so keen to watch me die attempting to ride it!

One more attempt on the mule some weeks later followed by a chain less likely to hang on to a gear than a Premier League footballer his wife and I confirmed what I suspected. I needed a new bike. One that preferably weighed in at less than me, was not going to cost me the same as any motorised (and therefore vastly more desirable) alternative. Fortunately each year comes a time when there is an excuse to buy a new bike. One like yesterday’s mental coin toss. So here goes. One bike into the shed. One bike out. At least with a fellow rider now in the house I may manage more trips out this year and to shed a few of those unwanted pounds. What do you reckon?  

I’m sure a lot of people will be going through the same process at this time of year. How can they lose those few pounds in this year’s annual self-lie of a resolution? What promised can they make about cutting back on those damaging biscuits, everything in moderation and so on? I myself decided not to make that mine this year. Instead I decided to write more. I guess that, biscuit in hand, this at least is a start.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Life CV

I have discovered recently that work has a habit of imitating love. For the last few years I have had a handful of jobs that I’ve loved and thoroughly enjoyed - even though at times it was hard work and more than a little stressful! Along the way I have been fortunate enough to even make some great mates. Additionally there was a decent reward for undertaking this vast array of tasks, which always helps.

I’ve developed and grown along the way. I have shared new experiences and each job has taught me some new skills as well as refining those I already possess. In fact some have taught me that I was able to do things I never expected or thought I’d be capable of! I’ve amassed a fairly credible, some would say impressive (albeit not ground breaking) CV full of experience. That is perhaps where I got a little ahead of myself and dared to believe my own hype, a dangerous thing to be sure. I had a job I was thoroughly enjoying. I loved my colleagues. The day to day grind was nothing that I couldn’t handle. Was it all too easy and comfortable or was I just at ‘happy’? Surely I needed a real challenge with matching significant reward, a chance to make a name for myself perhaps. My head was turned to a sparkly small consultancy that promised the earth. They don’t say “the grass is always greener on the other side” for nothing you know!

The challenge was short lived, the work was laborious with little enjoyment and no fine, glamorous end product, the people lacked the spark of past teams and after a painful, muddy slog there were cut backs and finally redundancy.

To see former colleagues happy, forging ahead without me gave pangs of jealousy and a bitter taste of regret, a new experience for me. A three month gap without work was utterly soul destroying and I found that having swallowed my pride I would do anything. I found myself applying for all sorts, did some manual labour for a friend, a series of temp jobs where I was in, worked and gone before people learned my name. Finally when I had something ‘permanent’ it was far from what I expected or wanted it to be. Shiny and new, promising so much on the face of it but the devil is in the detail and the description belied the content. Dull, tedious drudgery, filling long periods of nothing to do and little to say with surfing the net and awaiting the next pay packet. No creativity. No fun.

I’m 30 next month. It’s not mid-life crisis time, my biological clock isn’t ticking since fortunately being a man, it’s digital. But if I want to carve out that truly key role it’s time to stop temping isn’t it? It’s time to find a role that suits me, and I suit it again. So I have started a bit of a search and the best way to do that? In this climate the chances of getting head-hunted are pretty slim. It used to be the case of scouring the papers but now??? It’s all online! After a small period of wallowing and self pity, I’ve decided to sign up, upload my details and see what I can find. Wish me luck.